Space-faring women in 2012
We have stepped another year into the future, time to look back at the at the year behind us.
Let’s start with the good news, 2 women have flown into space. Liu Yang became the first Chinese female to fly into space on the 16th of June 2012, 49 years after Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman in Space. After 13 days she returned safely to earth. Where Liu Yang was a novice, Sunita Williams was already a veteran and has earned even more stripes after she participated in Expedition 32/33. On July 15th she was launched From Baikonour. While on the space station she performed 3 spacewalks, together with Aki Hoshide, which makes her the top ranking female spacewalker and the fifth in the complete spacewalk rankings. She was commander of Mission 33, only the second women ever to be commander. Also she did a triathlon in space. On November 19th she returned safely to earth
Sadly there were also losses to mourn. On February 6th Janice Voss passed away after battling her breast cancer. She was a mission specialist and had flown on 5 mission during the Space shuttle program. After she retired as an astronaut she became director of the Kepler Space Observatory. On July 23th America lost a hero. Sally Ride passed away on July 23th after fighting her pancreatic cancer for almost 17 months. Sally Ride became an astronaut by answering an add in the newspaper. She became the first American woman to fly into space and still is the youngest American astronaut to be launched. She co-founded the Sally Ride foundation, which sets up science programs for young children with a focus on girls. She is survived by her partner Tam O’shaugnessy.
Happily there are also hope for the future. There are new faces, new mission and new jobs on the horizon. Anna Kikina has been selected as a “test astronaut”, if she passes her training she will become a Roscosmos astronaut. Her cosmonaut colleague Yelena Serova got the good news that she was selected for mission 41/42, which will make her the fourth woman from Russia to fly into space. Samantha Cristoforetti will be joining her in mission 42 (and continue in mission 43), which will make her the 3rd European female astronaut. Mission 42 (end of 2014) will also be the first time since may 2011 that there will be multiple women in space at the same moment.
A few of our heroes have changed jobs. Ellen Ochoa, the first Hispanic female astronaut, will replace Michael Coats as director of the Johnson Space Center as of December 31 2012. In January Mae Jemison, the first African American woman in space, was selected to lead the 100-Year Starship project of Darpa. Sandra Magnus left NASA in October to become the Executive Director of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA).
In 2013 we will see the launch of Karen Nyberg for Expedition 36/37. She, Fyodor Yurchikhin and Luca Parmitano will launch in May. Maybe China will give us another surprise. To my dear followers: Have a great 2013!